In the article Unprecedented risk (June19), Byron Williams and Gloria Desorcy expose the narrow vision, risky and costly gamble the NDP government and Manitoba Hydro are forcing upon us. They raised the fast-falling costs of distributed solar power and energy storage. Winnipeg is close to the 50th latitude, which also passes through the centre of Germany. On a day in April 2012, all of Germany was cloudless and their total distributed solar power reached of 22 gigawatts, or more than three Manitoba Hydros. We get more sunshine than Germany, and solar cells are more efficient in the cold.
Furthermore, Hydro's controversial Bipole III can be delayed. No debate on the need for or alternatives to Bipole III was allowed by the government, which said it is needed for "reliability." Yet, Hydro intends to use it for export of hydroelectricity into this risky U.S. market, without adding the Bipole III carrying charges of $200 to $300 million per year to the export sale price to the U.S., Manitoba ratepayers will be stuck with these carrying charges, subsidizing the sales to the Americans.
At an independent inquiry held by the Bipole III Coalition in May, several experts testified, leading to the conclusion Hydro should cancel, or at least defer, Bipole III.
Instead of building Bipole III now, west of Lake Manitoba, it could be delayed until it is required for domestic power transmission and the high-voltage direct current line could be compacted to go roadside, or share right-of-way with rail lines. And we do not have to rip up northern wild lands and forests to do this. The province is planning to build an all-weather road up the east side of Lake Winnipeg, up to the isolated Island Lakes communities. Running Bipole III alongside this road would permit it to go northwards along existing transmission right-of-way to where the northern converter is to be located at Keewatinoow. This would prevent the distress to First Nations, Métis and farmers who will be impinged upon by the planned western bipole route, with greatly reduced overall environmental impact.
Manitoba Hydro has the engineering skill to design and build this new, compact roadside line when it is finally needed. Such a compact direct current transmission line would be no higher than the alternating current transmission lines going through River Heights in Winnipeg.
Dennis Woodford was a transmission planning engineer at Manitoba Hydro for 15 years and executive director of the Manitoba HVDC Research Centre for 15 years.